It is one year since the pandemic began. One year since we were able to sit around a table with our friends and family. One year since we can hug anyone we like. It is the lack of interaction that is perhaps the hardest. Human beings are social creatures; we congregate together to build communities, share stories, and create intimacy. By erecting invisible barriers between us, the pandemic stripped so much of what it means to be human, forcing us to check natural instincts and retreat from one another. However, this intimacy and social interaction that defines us is currently aiming to be replicated: through the metaverse.

The metaverse is a collective virtual shared space; the sum of all virtual worlds where individuals can game, talk, and even learn and work. If you have ever spoken to someone through Call of Duty, watched a live event in Fortnite, or engaged through a digital avatar, you entered the metaverse. In an article for Wired, David Baszucki wrote the metaverse “is arguably as big a shift in online communication as the telephone or the internet”. Baszucki, however, has a vested interest: he is the founder and CEO of Roblox, the world’s largest user-generated games site. Players use core building components to create and share online worlds that anyone can explore, with players spending an average of 2 hrs 36 minutes per day in this destination in the metaverse. Sounds like a farfetched idea only aimed at kids? Baszucki’s Roblox floated on the New York Stock Exchange this week, valued at a cool $38bn.

The value of the metaverse is tied to the potential of the interactions within it. Baszucki sees it as the destination for work, play… even dating. Barriers to travel are removed, digital avatars can enhance what we choose, and the destination can be anywhere from a romantic sunset beach to live theatre. And Baszucki isn’t the only one. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, purchased Occulus – a virtual reality (VR) provider – in 2014 and this week stated in a podcast that the “biggest thing we’re focused on [with VR] is creating a better social experience into the device… to get to the point where you have realistic avatars of yourself, where you can make real authentic eye contact with someone”. Perhaps metaverse datenights really are one click away.

VR is the natural home of the metaverse: it enables meaningful interaction in entirely new worlds. Altspace VR exists in the metaverse, and is a place to meet-up, have a drink on a (virtual) Brooklyn rooftop, even attend stand-up comedy and wellness talks. Other innovations include virtual art galleries through VR-All-Art, where users can create exhibitions in VR and sell artworks without the limitation of time, space, and geography; and real estate investment and cryptocurrency trading in Decentraland, where users can create, explore and trade in a virtual world, and spend real money to buy plots of land and other property.

Although the metaverse has met a much-valued need during the pandemic – even the England cricket team spoke of how gaming kept them together and sane during their recent tour of India, there are multiple commercial and entertainment opportunities that could define engagement throughout the 2020s. Here at MTM, we will explore the specific applications of the metaverse ranging from social to professional. If you would like to speak with us about this exciting space, please do not hesitate to get in contact.